Android users have plenty of options when it comes to tools that keep track of their mobile data usage. Some carriers pre-load their own apps, but if you're looking for a better one, you can't go wrong with Onavo Count. Its widgets and per-app display makes it the most useful app in the category.
- Easy setup: set your monthly bandwidth cap, billing cycle and your plan cost (plus overage fees) and go
- Alerts when you approach or exceed your bandwidth cap, when roaming, or any predefined bandwidth limits you set
- Alerts for data-hogging apps that are consuming data faseter than others, or are consuming data in the background
- Predictive alerts that you'll exceed your bandwidth cap if you continue current consumption
- Ability to restrict apps to Wi-Fi only, or turn 3G off entirely if you've exceeded your data cap
- Home screen widgets that show how much data you've used/have remaining for the month, display live data usage by apps running, and your apps that use the most data
- Awards you badges based on your data consumption, ranging from "Absolute Beginner" to "Data Tamer"
We've mentioned Onavo for Android before, and its iOS cousin. While the version of Onavo that does bandwidth compression, Onavo Extend, is only available for Ice Cream Sandwich devices, Onavo Count is probably the most accurate and attractive data monitor available for other versions of Android. The home screen widgets fit nicely and update immediately, the data counts are remarkably accurate, and best of all, Onavo Count is completely free.
As soon as you start Onavo Count, tell the app what your bandwidth cap is, when your billing cycle starts and ends, and whatever fees apply to your wireless plan. The app will do the rest automatically, keep track of your data usage overall and on a per-app basis, and warn you if you're getting close to your cap, or if you're getting close to any thresholds you set.
It'll even project, based on your current usage patterns, whether you'll end the month in the red. Granted, Ice Cream Sandwich has bandwidth monitoring built-in to the OS, but if you don't have an ICS phone or you want to see how accurate the built-in monitoring in ICS really is, Onavo Count is a great alternative — and it gives you the option to restrict specific apps to Wi-Fi only, which is especially useful for big data hogs.
Onavo Count isn't perfect — you see your overall data usage, but if you're worried about your data usage over Wi-Fi (although we can't imagine why), the app isn't really much help. Plus, we really wish the bandwidth optimization available in Onavo Extend were available in Onavo Count — the iOS version of the app does both without issue in a single app for all devices. Still, aside from these issues, there's not much to complain about.
My Data Manager (Free) is another great bandwidth monitor for Android and has been around longer than Onavo has. If you don't like Onavo's approach, or want a more lightweight, bare-bones app that just shows you the numbers without the fluff and badges, this is the app for you. Make no mistake, it doesn't compromise on features though: you can still set alerts and thresholds so you're always aware of how much data you use, you can monitor individual apps to see how much data they're using and which ones gobble down the most, and — a nice benefit that Onavo Count doesn't offer — you can see which types of apps use the most data, broken out by 3G and Wi-Fi. The widgets leave a little to be desired, and you don't get live data monitoring or the ability to lock apps to Wi-Fi, but if you want an alternative, it's your best option.
3G Watchdog (Free, $2.87 Pro) also shows you overall usage on 3G and Wi-Fi, lets you set your bandwidth caps, and will warn you as you approach them. In lieu of widgets (although the app has a few of those too), the app sticks in your notifications bar, and will change colours as you approach your cap.If you set your billing cycle, you can open the app and see details on your bandwidth use over the past day, week, month, and billing cycle.
If you spring for the pro version, you unlock a world of useful tools that rival the other apps here, including the ability to restrict apps, your usage history in a graph and data you can export as a CSV to show your wireless provider, multiple widget styles, and data usage by application — all of which are unavailable in the free version.
dodol Phone (Free) doesn't offer the features or the granularity of some of the other tools here, but it does a great job of giving you an overall picture of how you're using your phone and whether you'll hit overage fees for data, voice minutes, or SMS. The app tracks how many minutes you spend on the phone and how many SMS messages you send in addition to the bandwidth you use, and if you tell it what your plan limits are, the app will warn you as you approach any of those thresholds. Data updates in real time, and displays either in a home screen widget or in the notifications bar.
Data Counter Widget (Free, $2.87 Pro) is worth mentioning because it's a simple home screen widget that keeps track of your bandwidth usage right on the home screen. It's lightweight, but many users report issues with the app missing data consumption by apps newer than is it and the only real feature the Pro version offers is the ability to add a monthly cap so the widget tells you X used out of Y. Still, it's nice and simple if that's what you need.
NetCounter (Free) is another bare-bones tool that just shows you the amount of data used over 3G and Wi-Fi, broken down by day, week, month and total. Nothing more, nothing less.
These apps are just the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty more and there's no way we could get to them all. Do you have an alternative we missed that you think is worth mentioning? Let us know what it is and why it's worth a look in the comments below.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.